The pound reached a fresh15-year low against the dollar yesterday, the nationals reported this morni...
The pound reached a fresh15-year low against the dollar yesterday, the nationals reported this morning.
The Times reports attempts by Treasury sources to dismiss talk of rapid entry to the single currency as "overexcited" won sterling a brief respite in morning trade.
But after clawing back ground from Friday's close at $1.3798 to a high for the day of $1.3870, the pound succumbed to a renewed sell-off that sent it tumbling to a new low of $1.3713. Against the euro, it strengthened a little, by 0.17p to 61.31p - equivalent to about DM3.19.
The papers also covered the fall in trading volumes in foreign exchange markets. It is the first drop in more than a decade and has stoked fears about the future of one of the City's most lucrative activities.
The Times writes the advent of the euro has helped to send foreign exchange volumes tumbling by more than 25 per cent from their 1998 peak to an estimated $1.1 trillion (£800 billion) a day last year, according to new figures released by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).
In the insurance sector Friends Provident, the mutual life insurer, yesterday secured High Court approval for its plans to demutualise and float on the London Stock Exchange, according to The Times.
The move will be followed by the release of a prospectus for the flotation today which is expected to see the shares priced at about 260p. Merrill Lynch, which is handling the flotation, set an initial indicative range of 225p-270p, capitalising the group at up to £4.2 billion.
Trading in Independent Insurance shares was also a focus for the nationals. The Times says trading has been suspended ahead of a £150 million institutional share placing designed to bolster the capital base of the troubled group.
The measure was taken amid growing concern over "alleged reinsurance arrangements" which had been put in place to stem huge losses made from writing employer's liability insurance written on the London insurance market.
FT says the banks that backed the £620m ($851.4m) management buy-out of UniPoly in 1997 have brought in a new management to improve the performance of the engineering business.
The same paper reports that shares in Abbey National closed down more than 6.5 per cent on Monday as concerns mounted that UK regulators will block attempts by Lloyds TSB, Britain's third-largest bank, to acquire the mortgage bank.
A report into the planned £20bn ($27.6bn) deal is due to be sent by UK Competition Commission to the Department of Trade and Industry on June 12, though the findings will not be published until July.
Shares in Vodafone are also struggling according to the Times. Already trading close to a 2½-year low, they are expected to come under further pressure today with the end of a lock-up period preventing the sale of a further £650 million worth of Vodafone stock.
KPN, the Dutch telecoms operator, and Telia, its Swedish counterpart, will today be entitled to sell 370 million Vodafone shares inherited through Vodafone's acquisition of Eircell, the Irish mobiles group. The stock yesterday fell 7p to 175p.
Other shares to suffer yesterday included IFX Power. FT says shares in IFX Power fell by more than a quarter after the power supply equipment group issued a profit warning.
The shares, placed at 555p in July, rose to £11.60 in December before softening on fears of a US slowdown. On Monday, they closed 145p lower at 425p, valuing the group at £89m ($122.3m).
The same paper says Lazard, the international investment bank, is to close its London money market operation with the loss of more than 60 jobs.
The privately owned bank said the move reflected a strategic decision to withdraw from the wholesale money markets and focus more on its advisory business, asset management and capital markets.
Lazards Bank, its London banking subsidiary, has started unwinding its positions in stock lending and borrowing and in the repo market. New business will be written only where necessary for the orderly management of this process.
And always a story to stir interest FT reports Sir Richard Branson can borrow a further £17m from Lloyds TSB under a loan facility backed by Virgin Group's controlling stake in Virgin Atlantic, the prize of his business empire.
Virgin said on Monday it had mortgaged his 51 per cent stake in the Virgin Atlantic airline in exchange for a £67m three-year facility from Lloyds.
Sir Richard's group has already used £50m of the overdraft facility on new businesses, including US and Australian mobile phone ventures and the acquisition of a chain of South African health clubs.
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